Imprisoned: A Tale of Two Households in Hebron

Guest post by Gary Fields
Dept of Communications
University of California at San Diego

Al-Khalil (Hebron) is the paragon of Israeli apartheid, exemplified by the Abu Eisheh family and Zlekha Mutaseb and her mother. Both families were kind enough to spend a few hours with me telling me about their life in the Old City. It would take a lengthy explanation to provide enough context for their similar predicament but let me just say that both households are victims of the outrageously violent settler community in the Old City and the State of Israel that defends them.

 
What is different in Hebron is that the 500 Israeli settlers here have colonized the core urban space of the Old City through property theft and live literally next to, and even on top of the 30,000 Palestinians who reside in the same space. What the Israeli apartheid state has done for these settlers is create gated communities for them by prohibiting Palestinians from accessing large areas of the Old City that they have used for generations. In what is shocking even to South Africans who come here, Palestinians are literally forbidden to walk on certain streets in the Old City because they are Palestinian. If that is not apartheid, nothing is.

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Gaslighting the Nuclear Fuse

This article, “Fear Mounts that Ukraine War Will Spill Beyond Ukraine Borders,” appeared in The New York Times a few days ago. I single it out as an instance of the collective gaslighting that now seems to prevail in “the West” regarding the war in Ukraine. The article starts out like this:

For nine weeks, President Biden and the Western allies have emphasized the need to keep the war for Ukraine inside Ukraine.

A better way of putting this might be to say that for nine weeks, President Biden and his allies have pretended to hope that the war for Ukraine stays within Ukraine, while hinting simultaneously at regime change for Russia, while dragging all of Europe into a proxy war with Russia, and while demanding that the rest of the world, Europe and beyond, join in an embargo of Russia. Having done this, the President and his advisers now express surprise and alarm that the war might be spreading beyond Ukraine.

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Multitasking as Epistemic Injustice

Multitasking is considered a premium job skill, a sign of productivity in both job candidates and job holders. But the psychological evidence is clear: In extreme cases, multitasking is impossible, essentially leading the mind to a kind of paralysis. In less extreme cases, multitasking is a drag on productivity that imposes significant psychological costs. In general, multitasking is a thoroughly bad idea.

I don’t dispute that there are some jobs where multitasking is sometimes necessary. If so, one can’t coherently object to it. But both common sense and psychological evidence suggest that the need for multitasking is exaggerated, as is multitaskers’ capacity to do it well. Multitasking is neither as necessary as is often contended, nor as effectively done as is often claimed. There’s more bluffing than truth involved on both counts. Continue reading

Chomsky on Ukraine

I’ve previously plugged John Mearsheimer’s views on Ukraine here, with generalized agreement but many misgivings. I have fewer misgivings about Chomsky’s views, which are in the same anti-interventionist ballpark as Mearsheimer’s, at least as regards Ukraine, but without the problematic realist baggage. This interview with Nathan Robinson in Current Affairs seems the best of the bunch that I’ve seen.

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Markets, Uncertainty, and Health Care

After about a year and a half of working in health care, and at least some casual reading of the relevant literature, I’m increasingly skeptical that a libertarian free market can provide an adequate basis for the provision of health care. The longer I work in the field, the more convinced I become of the essential truth of Kenneth Arrow’s famous insight about the economics of health care: 

[T]he special economic problems of medical care can be explained by adaptations to uncertainty in the incidence of disease and in the efficacy of treatment (emphasis added).* 

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Thus to Tyrants

Here’s one small step toward justice, democracy, and the rule of law for Pakistan, and a fitting follow-up to this post from a few years back. Pakistan has something to be proud of for a change, and possibly something to teach the democrats, aspiring democrats, and erstwhile democrats of the world: it is possible to fight tyranny through a tenacious commitment to activism and the rule of law. Here’s to a new beginning, not just for Pakistan, but for every country afflicted with a leader like Imran Khan.

A Slap in the Face

The United States has just spent the last two decades fighting a series of ruinous wars, has created a million-person refugee crisis in Afghanistan, and is now fixated on the prospect of supporting a proxy war in Eastern Europe that might well go nuclear. So what, in the midst of all this, has genuinely engaged the country’s moral attention? The sight of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during the Academy Awards. The idea of endless warfare, even the elevated risk of nuclear warfare, is righteously taken for granted. Meanwhile, Will Smith has become the poster boy for deranged, untethered violence. That moral inversion, it seems to me, is a more consequential slap in the face than the one Smith planted on Chris Rock’s cheek. But try to get anyone to notice.

London Calling: H.L.A. Hart on Place Names

H.L.A Hart devotes chapter 10 of The Concept of Law to international law, and in particular to the question of whether international law counts as a genuine case of law. Though I’m open to persuasion on the topic, I’m somewhat skeptical of the idea that international law is genuine law, and find Hart’s arguments in favor of its validity as law rather confused. That said, this post is devoted to a small and all-things-considered inconsequential confusion in Hart’s discussion, not the larger issue at the center of the chapter. So the point I’m making is a semi-pedantic one, but I’m going to make it anyway.  Continue reading

Hart, Nationalism, and the “Invention of Tradition”

After a hiatus of a few months, we’re back to discussing H.L.A Hart’s The Concept of Law in our MTSP Discussion Group, so I thought I’d throw out some ideas I’d had on the past few discussions on chapters 8 and 9 of the book, “Justice and Morality,” and “Law and Morals,” respectively. This post is on chapter 8. I’m hoping to revisit chapter 9 at some point. Continue reading